CONCORD, NH – A Manchester man who sold military and industrial supplies that prosecutors say ended up in Iran is heading to prison after he was convicted on charges of money laundering and smuggling.
Aiden Davidson, 32, wept in the United States District Court in Concord as he pleaded with Judge Joseph LaPlante for mercy. Davidson came to the United States in 2012, telling the judge he was fleeing oppression in Iran.
“I would rather have cut my finger off than ship these things if I knew they would be going to Iran,” Davidson said.
Davidson changed his name from Hamed Aliabadi soon after he emigrated from the United States. He claimed that despite being able to speak five languages and having two engineering degrees he was unable to find work in the United States. He turned to an old friend from Egypt who offered him work buying and exporting industrial equipment, according to court records.
Davidson operated a company based in Manchester called Golden Gate International LLC. Through that company, Davidson exported more than $1 million worth of military and industrial parts and machinery, mainly related to hydraulic systems.
Assistant United States Attorney John Davis said Davidson was buying United States military surplus equipment and on paper sending it to a company in Turkey, when in fact the goods were being trucked to Iran. It’s unclear if the industrial gear was being used by the Iranian military, Davis said, but some of it was coded by the United States Department of Defense as equipment that must be destroyed rather than go overseas.
The company Davidson worked for never paid him directly, according to Davis, and instead used an international network of shell companies to send him money. Davis said there is strong reason to believe that Davidson was working for the Iranian government or military.
The United States has an embargo on Iran in response to the totalitarian Islamist regime’s pursuit of a nuclear program. LaPlante said it makes little difference if the equipment went directly to the military or not. Any effort to help Iranian industry is an indirect assist to the military, according to the judge.
“The fact is, if history has taught us anything about the military and industry, it’s that industrial capacity is military might,” LaPlante said.
Davidson told the judge that as an Azeri, a minority people in Iran, he faced discrimination and hardship in his own country. He said that in the United States he could not find a job in engineering because he could not obtain a security clearance due to his Iranian origin. He was even told he was overqualified to work at McDonald’s.
“I was desperate to support my wife and my stepdaughter,” Davidson said. “I ruined my life and my future in this country. My actions have left my life in complete shambles.”
Davis said in court that Davidson started work exporting the goods nearly as soon as he got to America. Davidson legally changed his name in 2016, but used an email address linked to his Iranian name to deal with the exports, and used that email address for nothing else, according to Davis.
Davidson is a naturalized American, having gained his citizenship before he was arrested by federal agents. He moved from the Manchester apartment to Tenessee in late 2017.
LaPlante ordered Davidson to serve a 46-month sentence in a federal prison, with a year of supervised release after that. LaPlante is allowing Davidson to report to prison in September, giving the federal Bureau of Prisons time to further deal with the COVID-19 pandemic before Davidson reports.